A lot of people set up a small business as a sole proprietorship, and this is fine. Often, there is no real compelling need to set up a separate business entity (such as a Corporation or an LLC), and the IRS will allow you to use Schedule C to track your business income and expenses.
The problem is when people don’t keep their business finances separate from their personal finances.
Most people are aware that they need to keep receipts for their business expenses, but often they forget that you also need to keep accurate records of your business income. If you don’t have accurate records, and you use the same checking account for both your business and personal finances, it is possible that the IRS will allocate some of your personal income to your business. For example, if you are the ‘team mom’ for a sports team and all of the members send money to you so that you can send one check to the photographer, it is possible that the IRS might allocate those ‘picture’ checks as income to your company.
The easiest way to eliminate this potential problem is to have a separate bank account for your business and use that account for all of your business financial activity and ONLY for your business.
Also, as mentioned previously, keep very good accounting records for your business, including receipts where possible and notes to yourself when an actual receipt is not available. Use this method for both income and expenses.
You can also obtain a separate EIN for your business. This EIN is like the Social Security Number you have for your personal identification, but it is used only for the business. Using this separate EIN is also useful if you need to provide tax id information to others and you want to keep your personal SSN secure from possible identity theft.
The other way to help eliminate potential problems with the IRS is to always file your taxes on time and be sure to make all of your payments on time and in the correct amount.
You don’t necessarily need to have an Accountant or CPA to assist you in this process, but if that is what it takes to keep you on track, you might find that it is cheaper to pay the Accountant or CPA to help you get it right the first time instead of paying someone to help you with an audit later!
The bottom line is that if you are running a business, you need to treat it like a business.
If you have further questions about your small business, or if you need some help in getting started, please contact our office at 757-234-4650 to schedule a short meeting. We would like the opportunity to help you get started!